Anna Goetz, Curator of the project, introduction:
“Ever since my first collaboration with Alia Farid in 2019, this work has stuck in my mind. I am intrigued with how she exposes the underlying political mechanisms of the Gulf War (1990–1991), particularly the role of the media in manipulating both public opinion and the so-called official narrative of the war. Farid shares the material that her grandmother collected from public television in the early 1990s, and thus reveals the content’s intimate connections with her family and upbringing in Kuwait and Puerto Rico. These disclosures reveal the artist’s ambiguous position and the degree to which her own memory has been shaped by the media coverage and the narrative created by the reality TV show in which she herself participated. Placing Puerto Rico in dialogue with Kuwait highlights the tenuous status of each of her home countries. In the Gulf War Saddam Hussein attempted to annex Kuwait but was thwarted by US-lead coalition forces. Meanwhile, Puerto Rico is both a Caribbean island and an unincorporated US territory, emblematic of Latin America’s colonial history. I invited Farid to launch the Genealogies in the Middle East and Latin America project and to invite one artist from each region whose work has been significant to her, because her practice speaks to her own rootedness in both the Middle East and Latin America, and thus reflects on the shared histories of the regions as well as the migration between them.”
Alia Farid’s Theater of Operations (The Gulf War seen from Puerto Rico) (2017) is a compilation of TV broadcasting recorded on VHS tapes in the unincorporated US territory of Puerto Rico that documents the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait—the first televised war. News footage is interwoven with reality television-like material showing Farid’s family escaping to Puerto Rico. The work juxtaposes personal and official narratives to expose some of the underlying political mechanisms at play in the Gulf War and the media’s power to influence public perception.
The multifaceted work explores the urgency and complexity of the Middle East’s political landscape from the vantage point of Puerto Rico and its subordinate position to the United States, and through the voices and bodies of the people who inhabit it.
Screening and Booking Information
Theater of Operations (The Gulf War seen from Puerto Rico) (2017)
Director: Alia Farid
Experimental | 213 minutes
Spanish, Arabic and English with English subtitles
This screening is part of the Genealogies in the Middle East and Latin America project, which explores historical and contemporary relationships between artists from these two regions. It unfolds along narratives revealed by the artists' personal accounts that provide critical alternative perspectives and insights by decentralising dominant narratives, schools and paradigms produced and affirmed in the West.
To learn more, please click here.
Sharjah Art Foundation presents a series of online film screenings jointly organised with Anna Goetz, who initiated this collaborative project featuring 21 artists and collectives from the Middle East and Latin America working in film and video.